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Focus on the Family Broadcast

God’s Amazing Grace in a Transgendered Person’s Life (Part 2 of 2)

God’s Amazing Grace in a Transgendered Person’s Life (Part 2 of 2)

Laura Perry Smalts shares about her 7-year journey of transitioning and identifying as a male before realizing she was living a lie and then fully embracing her female gender. She tells about her painful experiences living with a self-created identity outside of God’s design and incredible plan for her, revealed through her loving parents and other believers. Laura and Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician, speak compassionately about the issues surrounding gender confusion in today’s culture, offering practical insights, hope and help. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: March 6, 2024

John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, Laura Perry Smalts talks about her radical transformation.

Laura Perry Smalts: And I look back, and even some of the mistakes my parents made, God used those things anyway. But even as they, they refused to, um, call me Jake. They didn’t use the male pronouns, and I was so angry, but I knew they loved me, but God was pursuing me this whole time. And my parents were praying and they had lots of people praying with them. And this began to be a supernatural miracle that just unfolded that no one could have, um, seen coming.

John: Well, as you can tell there, Laura wanted to transition into a male, but God wanted to transform her heart. And that’s exactly what He did. And there’s so much we can learn from her transformation, and we’re excited for you to hear about it. We have her inspiring story and more for you today. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Uh, John, last time Laura shared about her experience with medical transition and she was joined by Dr., uh, Meeker, an expert pediatrician who brought in her medical knowledge and observations. Uh, they talked about some of the underlying pain and mental health issues that children experiencing gender identity confusion are often dealing with. And in the second part of the conversation, which you’ll hear today, our guest talked about how we can love those children as Jesus would. Christians are called to be radically loving without compromising the truth. And that’s what we’re going to equip you, uh, with today. I was so moved by this discussion, and I know you’re going to be as well.

John: And Laura’s full story is captured in her book, Transgender to Transformed: A Story of Transition That Will Truly Set You Free. We’ve got that here at the ministry, and that really forms the basis of the conversation today. And then Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who frequently speaks with parents about gender identity and the damage of medical transition.

Jim: Yeah. And to get back into the conversation, I asked Laura and Dr. Meeker about what a parent can do to help a child feel accepted as a person without affirming their gender confusion and what that looked like for Laura with her parents.

John: And we’re gonna start today’s Focus on the Family with Laura’s answer to that question.

Laura: Yeah. I, I think this is the beauty of the gospel because the reality is, you know, my mom did hurt me in a lot of ways, but we are all sinners. We’re all sinners raising other sinners. None of us were ever gonna be the perfect parent. And even if we could have been, which none of us could be, God was the perfect parent. I mean, he’s, he’s parents to us all. But with Adam and Eve, who had no earthly parents, they were in a perfect environment, no war, no disease, nothing had ever hurt them, they didn’t have any kind of brokenness, and yet they still rebelled. And so… but the reality is that a lot of kids that struggle with transgender do have issues with their parents. But one thing that God revealed to me is that children have, we’re all created for the Garden of Eden.

We don’t have this expectation of being hurt, of being, um, disappointed by our parents. Our parents could never be perfect. And so what my mom did and said she could have been, you know, and was for years, tried to fix me. And I think she realized her mistakes. And so she kept trying to fix it. But when she realized she couldn’t fix it, really gave control to the Lord. And then he ended up using her because she pursued the Lord. And God gave her the opportunity to be part of his redemption story in me. But it was not her story. She was not the one who could fix me, but the Lord could.

And when she, um, God allowed her to be part of that story, and that’s what I think is so beautiful. So no matter what you’ve done, ’cause I guarantee you every parent listening to this, and I’ve talked to hundreds of parents, every parent listening to this has made mistakes. I’ve made mistakes. I’m a new stepmom now, (laughs) so none of us are ever gonna be perfect. But the beauty of the gospel is that this can be redeemed. That God can heal and God can restore. And that’s the power of forgiveness.

Jim: Yeah. And then Dr. Meg, just that spectrum of patients that you see, the kids and their parents and the dysfunction. I’m sure you may not always comment on it in your medical office, but you probably, it makes an impact on you where parents are doing it well and where they’re doing it not so well. Kind of give us a little tutorial on what you’ve seen as a physician.

Dr. Meg Meeker: Um, you’re absolutely right. And I love that you’re, we’re talking so openly about this. What I keep seeing and hearing is that there’s tremendous amount of pain underneath. And I think that a lot of times it’s easier for, um, adults or young adults to go, “That’s my parents. My parents did it. My parents are responsible.” Well, maybe, but maybe not. But we need to teach young kids that pain and hardship is part of life, and this is what we have to just learn how to deal with. Now, what I have found, and maybe it’s too simplistic, but I still (laughs) like to think, and I’ve seen so many kids over the years, but when you begin to restore the… a relationship between a mom and a child or a dad and a child, and you work to really start to connect them back, so much of this begins to fall away.

Doesn’t all fall away, but it begins to. Because the answer in any trouble and confusion is relationship. Because we’re born for relationship first with God and then with our parents. And so to sort of say that all these other things are the answer to that pain, because every transgender person is in tremendous amount of pain, at least the kids who are, who are transitioning, which we never attend to it. But the answer is that if you help parents begin to understand their kids, reconnect with their kids, listen to their kids, pay attention to their kids, which I think is a huge reason why we have so much depression anxiety, is that people, you know, our kids live so autonomously. You’ve got family units living in under the same roof, but they’re not really connected at all.

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Meeker: And I think that when you disconnect a child from a parent, and you tell them that the reason for their angst is something else, and you put an answer to that something else, it never works. So one of the things I always try hard to do, no matter what, and I’ve seen a lot of high risk teens, suicidal teens pull a parent in and gently begin to help them understand and empathize with their kid. And even if they just learn to do that, because once you begin to restore that relationship, so much else falls into place because relationship in our lives is what life is all about.

Jim: You know, the difficulty with that, even if you’re not dealing with sexual issues with a child, uh, I’ve seen it in my wife and I with our two boys. They’re 22 and 20 now. Uh, there comes a point where you’ve gotta let go. And if you don’t let go, there’s a mess. Uh, especially I would say raising boys. I mean, they were trying to become independent as teenagers. And man, the difficulties that we encounter, especially with our oldest, and it doesn’t have to, again, to be a sexually oriented issue. Um, we just need to parent better knowing that we cannot, as Christian parents control the outcome.

There’s predictability. You wanna raise them in a loving home. All the predictive models suggest when you do that, they’re going to be healthy and successful and all the things you’re hoping for. But if you are a hard parent, and somehow that can come across as unloving like Laura’s hinted to, uh, you know, you’ve got to reassess that and understand what Jesus wants from you as a parent. And Laura, I think in that regard, your parents’ ability to love you and not affirm, uh, you know, your sexual issues, talk about that balance for us, and for those parents listening about how to do that well, because it, it doesn’t come naturally. We do have to think about doing that so that we can hopefully save our children.

Laura: One of the beauties of this is, this is all about the work of the Lord and his, um, work in our hearts and in our children’s lives. So we’re going to make mistakes, but God’s gonna use us anyway (laughs). And you know, he said that, um, in Romans 8, it says that, “God works all things together for the good of those who love him and are who, who are called according to his purpose.” And I look back, and even some of the mistakes my parents made, God used those things anyway. But even as they, they refused to, um, call me Jake, they didn’t use the male pronouns. And I was so angry, but I knew they loved me.

In fact, one of the times that I felt most loved by them was the night that I came out. And I was so emotional and I was, um, just kind of screaming and, you know, “You have to affirm this, this is who I am.” And I remember them weeping and so broken and just crying and saying, “We will do anything. We will get you help. You know, we’ll get you counseling, um, you know, let us… let, let’s try to balance your hormones for a few months before you try this. Maybe, maybe there’s a hormone balance issue.” And all these things. And I remember being angry and I was thinking, I wish they didn’t love me so much. ‘Cause I just wanna go do what I wanna do (laughs).

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Laura: And, you know, I would tell them how hateful they were being, you don’t love me, blah, blah, blah. But it wasn’t true. I knew they loved me. But I, I was so convinced this is who I was. And over the years, there were so many times that I would completely cut them off. I’d be angry, and then God would reopen that door and that I’d cut them off, and then God would reopen that door. And this, this cycle happened repeatedly. But over the years, as, as they pursued Jesus and I began to see such a change in them, and, and, and they weren’t preaching at me anymore. All of a sudden, they just become so filled with Jesus that it just began to spill out of them. And they were so excited about the things they were learning and the things that God was doing in their lives and the things God was teaching them. And it, over the years, it just began to intrigue me.

Jim: You know, Laura, there’s a part in your book that you mentioned where you came home in, I think sometime in your 20s to kinda reconnect with your female identity. You went home to do that, which I just sounded a bit like the prodigal son, right? But your mom gave you a bunch of letters that made an impact on you. What, what happened there?

Laura: Yeah. And, um, I just real quick ’cause I didn’t mention this part of the story I had gotten, um, at one point, really, when I saw the change in my mom and I, I got radically saved. I, I was so on fire for Jesus, and I was gonna be a man of God (laughs).

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Laura: And I was really, but over that year and a half, God really began to convict me. He didn’t leave me there. And he really began to draw me outta that lifestyle. I did not wanna come outta that lifestyle. And, and God began to, yeah, I was under so much conviction and I, but I got to the point where I wanted Jesus more than I wanted my next breath. And I finally, um, I walked away with no hope. I did not think I’d ever look like a girl again. I didn’t think I’d ever feel like a girl again. I didn’t think I’d ever want to be a girl again.

And so… but I knew I’d be okay eternally. I knew I’d no… have no more tears in Heaven. I knew I’d have a… no more sin nature. I knew I’d have a new body, so I was just sort of hanging on. But I didn’t know the healing and redemption God would bring me. But tho- those first few days were horrific. I was in so much pain and I really didn’t know why, but I was just crying endlessly. I’d take like one shirt outta my suitcase and I’d just cry for an hour.

Jim: Oh.

Laura: And, um, as this pain was pouring out and my mom set these letters in front of me, and it was a whole basket full of, um, cards and letters that the women in her Bible study had written to me. And the connection there, um, really it was my mom’s Bible study that was part of what brought me to the Lord because I started, um, she asked me to work on the website for this Bible study. They’ve grown from 12 women in this home to, um, now it’s over 100 and like 30, something like that.

But now, uh, at the time, about 75 women, and they had been praying for me for years. And so when they heard I was coming home, they were so filled with joy. And they had… so they, they wrote me these letters telling me how they’d been praying for me, how I’d given them hope for their children, um, how much they loved me. And these women were so invested in me at that point, even though they’d never met me. And, um, that had a huge impact on my life. And I remember one in particular though, ’cause I was wrestling with, okay, there’s so much love, and I knew that there was this hope that I was gonna be okay. And I could see that God was bringing all these people around me to support me, but I was in so much pain, I couldn’t handle it.

And I came to this one letter in particular that said, um, it was a quote from a Puritan prayer, but it basically talked about, um, there’s this great sin of making, feeling a cause of faith. And I remember thinking that, uh, if I base my faith and my feelings, there’s no faith at all. That’s no faith in Christ. And I had to consciously choose to obey God rather than my feelings. And that, I think that’s where this, the healing journey really started. And those women raised over $1,600 to buy me a new wardrobe, help me with bills and things like that, um, and really kinda get me started. And they loved on me. And the church really became such an incredible support system for me.

Jim: Yeah.

Laura: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And it’s so core to the message. It’s the difference between being a Christ follower and everything else. I mean, when we can express the love of God, it’s like they cannot resist it. It cracks their heart open to you, and then you can go to deeper discussions. Let me read this out of 2nd Timothy. The scripture has really driven me in those contacts that I’ve had. “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” That’s very affirming.

But now get this, “So flee youthful passions, pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart, have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies. You know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, able to teach patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. And they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil after being captured by him to do his will.” That’s your life, Laura.

Laura: Yeah.

Jim: You have lived that.

Laura: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Jim: That has to make an impact on you.

Laura: Yeah, absolutely. And it, you know, it was really the word of God that began to transform me. But you’re absolutely right. It, it had to be this tw-. And I think sometimes we, we water down the gospel and we, we tell people that, you know, this is just about so, so that you don’t go to hell. And that’s, that’s only the beginning. God wants us to, to be part of His life. But if we’re… I remember being so convicted by this verse right before I left the lifestyle about how in 1st Corinthians 6 it says that, “We are the temple of God. And if… he who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her,” and I thought about the defilement of sexual sin, and I was defiling the body of Christ. If we’re just living for youthful passions and lusts, um, we’re never going to be effective for the Kingdom of God.

John: What an important conversation today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly about transgender issues. And, uh, that’s a conversation Jim had with Laura Perry Smalts and Dr. Meg Meeker. And Laura’s incredible story is captured in her book, Transgender to Transformed: A Story of Transition That Will Truly Set You Free. Get a copy of that book from us here at Focus on the Family. And, uh, when you do, you’re helping us reach, uh, families and individuals around the world. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY or visit focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Laura, I want to ask you, because this kind of is the icing on the cake. You go through everything, you’ve… you’re married now, uh, Perry, your husband.

Laura: (laughs).

Jim: Just describe that because that’s such a completion of God’s story in your life. And just describe it for us. I, I thought… I would think like 10 years ago, you never thought that’d be possible.

Laura: No. In fact, when I first came out the lifestyle, I was like, I’m doomed to be single, you know, the rest of my life. And I was like, “Well, Lord, I’ll, I’ll be single the rest of my life.” But I, I began to pray over the years as God brought more and more healing to me, um, I began to, first I was just kind of okay with being female, and then I was a little more comfortable. And then all of a sudden, I really started to like being a girl (laughs). And I started to like who I am, and I really began to desire a husband.

And I prayed. I said, “God, if I can serve you better single, then I will stay single. But if, if I can serve you better married, then I pray for a husband.” And I really, I just asked the Lord to bring me whoever he wanted for me. And, um, we had a mutual friend introduce us. And it was, it was so funny because as it unfolded, we knew very early on that God had brought us together. And, um, he’s just been an incredible man.

I, I’m so amazed though, at, you know, I thought this was just a blessing just to, um, to bring this good gift to my life. And it is that, but God has taught me so much about the relationship of husband and wife and how this represents Christ in the bride, like Ephesians 5 says, but also he’s run incredible healing to me.

Jim: Mm.

Laura: And so this has been, um, just an incredible journey. You know, it’s really, I was amazed like how a man could accept all of my past, not just transgender, but also extreme sexual sin. Um, as a Christian man, how could he accept all of this? And the fact that I didn’t have breasts at the time. I’ve since had implants. Um, but, um, just I couldn’t have children, all these things. And he said he saw me as the new creature that God had created. He said, people have asked him in interviews, you know, if he’s struggled with my past. And he said, “No, because her past is in the past.”

And he quotes 2nd Corinthians 5:17 that says, “If anyone is in Christ, he’s a new creature. Old things have passed away. Behold all things have become new.” And uh, and the other thing I was gonna say too is I wish I had known, of course, I, I couldn’t have known experientially, but if I’d known the beauty of God’s design for sexuality, I would’ve waited 20 years for this man. I mean, it was like this, um, to know how much better God’s design is of holy sexuality within covenant marriage compared to, um, the sexual sin that I was in. That, that leaves you so empty, so broken, so ashamed, so dirty feeling, but to know in covenant marriage the way that God intended this. So that’s my passion in my heart to teach young people that God has a beautiful design for this, that Satan is trying to rob you of. Mm-hmm.

Jim: Yeah. And I so appreciate that. And you know, again, the interaction that I’ve had, it’s like with anything, uh, a rich man, you know, we get to meet a lot of businesspeople and it’s that next deal that’ll fill that hole in my heart. And as I’ve talked to the LGBTQ community, same kind of thing. If, if we just get recognition of marriage, then we’ll feel whole. And I remember telling my, uh, acquaintances, I don’t think it’s gonna meet that hole in your heart. I think only God can do that. And you’ve experienced that.

Meg, let me, let me turn to you right at the end here. And certainly Laura jump in after Meg. But this cultural madness that we’re seeing, and us as Christians in this, it’s so easy for our flesh to respond. I mean, we want, let’s argue. I, I can put up a good argument, let’s go for it. But you look at the craziness. You read in Romans that God hands them over to the deprivation of their mind. It feels like in the culture now we’re at that point where we can’t even talk about what a woman is or what-

Dr. Meeker: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … healthy, biblical sexuality is. We’re like the outside people. We’re the strange ones because we’re not embracing this. But how do we move forward and stand for the Lord and stand for truth with that compassion that God would want us to have?

Dr. Meeker: Well, I will say personally right up front, Jim, you’ve been a great example of that to me. Um, because you embrace people whose ideology and beliefs you don’t agree with, but you love them anyway. And I think the huge challenge for us as Christians is to separate what the person is doing and their thought process with the person. Because the person has huge value. They’ve been taken down the wrong road, but Jesus still loves that person. And so I, I think that if we’re not allowed to speak to the masses, which it sounds like we’re not able to do that anymore. We go one to one to one, and we love that person. And we come in and we genuinely show that love and we don’t begin conversations with, “You need to change. I’m here to help you change. It’ll never work.” So first we move in and we just love them and like them.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Meeker: Um, and, and that’s the only way we’ll get through. I had this happen to me with a patient, it took me probably eight years to walk with him until he sort of transitioned back to where God wanted him to be. And when he did, he, he just jumped off the exam table and just gave me a huge hug. And I burst into tears (laughs). So I always do. But, but I think that’s really the key. And we haven’t learned how to do that. I think Christians are learned how to stand for righteousness and tell people what’s wrong and then just do that. Well, you’re never gonna win anybody for that.

I really believe Jesus would just sort of walk in and start eating dinner with them. And when you do that, you’re not affirming what they’re doing. You are loving the person and to separate the sin and the, uh, the ideology from the person. And that, that takes a lot of maturity and time. But I don’t think we’re training people well in that.

Jim: Well, and it’s interesting ’cause that’s exactly what Jesus did, what Laura said earlier, you start asking questions and let them answer, and then it develops relationship. And then you can start asking other questions spiritually. It’s so good. Laura, right here, any last comment about, uh, this whole topic? You’ve lived it. It’s again, so courageous of you. I just, I wish we were here in the studio together, so I’d give you a big hug.

Laura: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I just so admire what you’ve gone through and your willingness to lay it at the feet of Jesus and his healing power in your life is such a testimony. It has to be actually quite scary to those that are still, uh, looking at your story, reading your book, Transgender to Transformed. They can’t argue with your testimony, just like the word says they overcame the evil one through the blood of the lamb and the power of your testimony. Nobody can tell you you didn’t live it. You did.

Laura: Yeah. And you know, there, there is such power in our testimony. And I… the word is just full of an admonition to share our story. Like Psalm 107:2 that says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.” And, but you know, there’s so much, just like I at the time would’ve said, oh, you’re being so hateful, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I remember so many things I’d hear and I would go home and say, man, what if they’re right?

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Laura: And I remember things that had an impact on me, and seeds were planted that begin to grow much later. So we have to trust that this is the Lord’s work. We cannot fix a single person on this planet. Um, but God can do the work that no one could ever, um, even dream possible. And I love, this is one of my life verses that I think sort of sums up my story in Ephesians 3. And it said, “Now, to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine according to His power that’s at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.” And so I think that is the crux of all of this, is that Jesus Christ can heal, can redeem and restore. He rose from the dead to feeding all death and sin. And no matter what your child’s saying, no matter what your friend’s saying, no matter what you’re feeling, Jesus can overcome all of this.

Jim: Wow. Amen. What a place to end.

Dr. Meeker: Amen.

Jim: Thank you so much to both of you for, uh, being so bold and being open. I’m sorry Dr. Meeker, with the hateful responses that you get. I know you get them too, Laura, as I do.

Laura: Yeah. (laughs).

Jim: Uh, but let’s rise above those things and exemplify the love of Christ. Thank you so much for being with me.

Dr. Meeker: Thank you.

Laura: Thank you so much for having us on.

John: What an enlightening and encouraging conversation that Jim had with Laura Perry Smalts and Dr. Meg Meeker. And I hope that you feel informed to help someone, a young person perhaps in your life who may believe lies about their gender.

Jim: John, we are called by God to defend the vulnerable, especially children. And that includes protecting our children from the false promises of gender transition. Uh, Dr. Meeker was so insightful when she talked about the importance of parents connecting with their children. And you heard Laura share how Christians in her life, especially her mom, loved her to Christ. Uh, we have to be willing to truly listen to young people who are struggling with gender confusion and remind them who they really are. “God redeems and restores,” as Laura said. And our job as a parent is to speak truth over our children, to love them and pray that God would move in their hearts and then trust God for the outcomes. If you want to hear, uh, even more of what Laura and Dr. Meeker had to share, we have a longer conversation for you on my podcast, ReFOCUS with Jim Daly.

And if you are looking for more conversations on this topic and related topics, we have more for you on the podcast and we’ll have that link for you. Uh, John can give you the details in just a minute. If you were moved by Laura’s story, she shares so much more in her book. We can’t cover all of the content. It’s titled Transgender to Transformed: A Story of Transition That Will Truly Set You Free. And we really appreciate you getting that from us so we can continue to encourage parents and minister to them as they are raising up their children in the Lord. And the transgender issue is just one of the challenges many families are facing today is the country strays further from biblical values.

Will you help us to strengthen America by saving our families? Uh, join our friends of Focus on the Family Membership Drive and become a monthly sustainer to offer continued help to moms, dads, and their children. When you join us, uh, we’ll say thanks by sending you Laura’s book, Transgender to Transformed. And if you’re unable to make a monthly pledge right now, please make a one-time gift of any amount and we’ll be happy to send you the book for that generosity as well.

John: Yeah, donate today and request your copy of that book, Transgender to Transformed when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or you can donate and, uh, request that book online at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Cover of the book Transgender to Transformed by Laura Perry

Transgender to Transformed: A Story of Transition That Will Truly Set You Free

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